Everything has gone pear-shaped! (But not really) Food Adventure Challenge 2011: Installment Two

by Michelle Byrd–A special thanks goes directly to M. Cameron and indirectly to T. Cameron for alerting me to the beauty of an Asian pear.

To go straight to the pear results and a short pear salad recipe, simply scroll to the picture of the three pears.

We’ll get to what I thought about this week’s challenge items–Asian, Bosc and Red Bartlett pears–but first, for those who appreciate historical records of human communication, I have provided for you a small, pear-related excerpt from “The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste” by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams.

Now, my intent is not to make light of the geekiness that is the recording and debating over pears, because I love reading these sorts of exchanges. However, sometimes I lie to myself about my intent.

In the excerpt below, the editors of “The Horticulturist . . .” doubt some pear measurements they’ve received anonymously. The main man they can consult to confirm these measurements is one Mr. William Reid, a lifelong, dedicated horticulturist. I know little to nothing of Mr. Reid except that he was committed to his profession and was published in and consulted for “The Horticulturist . . .”, a 19th-century journal, a number of times.

Duchess D’Angouleme And Sheldon Pears

The annexed is the outline of a Duchess d’Angouleme Pear (Fig. 1) that grew last season in the garden of Thomas R. Thompson, in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, on a standard tree taken from the nursery of Mr. William Reid. It was forwarded to us anonymously, and we consequently felt some doubt about the enormous proportions; but, on application to Mr. Reid, the well-known nurseryman there, we received the following note:

Duchess D'angouleme.

Duchess D’angouleme. http://chestofbooks.com/

Duchess D’Angouleme And Sheldon Pears

Elizabethtown, N. J., Nov. 28,1855. J. Jay Smith, Esq

Dear Sir: The specimen of Duchess d’Angouleme Pear which you refer to, the outlines sent you by Chas. Davis, Junr., of this place, grown by Thos. R. Thompson, of Elizabethtown, is correctly described. The measurement was 15 inches longitudinal circumference, by 13 1/2 inches, as represented. This Pear was brought to my place by the grower, to look at before being eaten. I had heard of this Pear before I saw this specimen, but having so many fine specimens, I took no notice of it until I saw it; I at once thought the size exceeded anything I had ever seen, even putting me, as you observe, in mind of a monstrous specimen I saw at some exhibition, made out of wax. It was very solid and heavy, and, to all appearance, Juicy and perfectly melting; the weight is correct, having been weighed by several scales in town, viz: 1 lb. 12 ozs.

Yours, etc, Wm. Reid [1].

As a follow-up, please imagine picturing Mr. Reid upon his receipt of the letter that you have just read. This addition is completely fictitious and is what I couldn’t dismiss from my mind while reading the above excerpt regarding pears? or pride?

Mr. Reid, dressed in trousers and a sensible sweater, picks up his correspondence from the post office. One gardening glove hangs from his trouser belt loop, just in case. Once home and after drinking several sips of tea, methodically, he begins to sort his mail. Everything has a place. Correspondence from his Aunt Nell goes in one pile. She is doing splendidly and hopes to visit him soon. The journals that publish his work enter another pile. They will be placed alphabetically along his solid, wooden bookshelf. The last thing in the evening’s pile? The Accusation. It arrives in a fairly nondescript envelope but for the return address in the upper left-hand corner. It’s official, to be sure. It’s a letter from “The Horticulturist . . .” that doubts an anonymous mailer’s findings. In Mr. Reid’s zeal in any situation to “set the record straight,” he instantly whips out his pen of fine craftsmanship he uses for just these occasions and then hastily but steadily pushes his pen to paper, drawing his nifty diagram and discussing his findings. For every mention of pear, he capitalizes P. For every mention of the pear in question, he responds with the excitement of someone who has seen Frankenstein.

Oh, how agitated Mr. Reid must’ve been when he’d received the editor’s correspondence that doubted the size of the pear in question. Had Mr. Reid been so inclined to add one more little line, his mood may have established a different course of one phrase as we know it. Instead of the exhausted “How you like dem apples?” we’d use instead, “How you like dem pears?”*

Game on, The Horticulturist!!! (and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste)

*I am aware that the supposed origins of “How you like dem apples?” came way later, if I am to believe Wikipedia. I am disregarding all research where this is concerned so I can make my story end remotely cleverly. How you like dem . . . Oh, nevermind.

Photo courtesy of M. Byrd

On to the verdicts:

Asian pear: I loved this one! It’s like eating an apple but better because when sliced, the pieces are less bulky and mildly sweeter. Some bites had a small buttery aftertaste. This pear even looks like it’d belong in the apple family and is often referenced as an “apple pear” [3]. Hell, you should slice these up and throw them into your next salad or just eat them raw. Yum! See a simple pear salad recipe below. (I hated the skin, but I hate all the pear skins I’ve ever tasted.)

Red Bartlett: I had two of these, an overripe one and another just beginning to ripen. Baby O loved the overripe one–great for her to “toddlerhandle.” Take a look at the picture above if you need evidence. I found the Red Bartlett to be sweeter and softer than the Asian. Of course sweetness, etc. will depend on when you buy the item. Since I prefer crispy, this one came in second. I’d recommend this one for salads, too, to offset the pear’s sweetness a bit. See a simple pear salad recipe below.

BOSC: When I first tasted the BOSC on Wednesday, I found it to be bland and lifeless. I shoved it into a plastic bag and then tossed it into the fridge, thinking I’d try it again in a couple of days. I didn’t have much hope for it. On Friday, I pulled it out and sliced it. Crisper. Sweeter. Better. Still not my favorite.

What should you look for when shopping for one? In general, if you are ready to eat a pear, look for one that has a slight give and then eat within a day or two. The longer you wait, the softer it’ll get. Look for pears with no scarring or bruising. HOWEVER, for the Asian pear, you should buy it when it is firm. Look for a sweet, strong smell (when pear is cold, this factor fades). If you’d like to ripen further, put your pears in a “cool, dark place” [3]. The Asian, unlike many other pears, is intended to be a crispy pear, so don’t wait around for it to soften unless you enjoy rotted pear.

Now, get out there and try something, anything new, Folks! This challenge is rolling and needs you. You know you’ll be at the grocery or a new restaurant anyway this weekend. Come back and share with us 🙂 Happy cooking! Happy eating!

Simple Pear Salad

I love crunch in my salad. If you do, too, here’s a really easy way to use the Asian pear aside from eating it straight up.

Time:   5 minutes      Difficulty:   Super easy    Serves:  2 peopls

Ingredients:

  • Approx. 1.5 cups arugula
  • balsamic vinaigrette, enough to provide a good drizzle and light coating on your arugula (I really like Archer Farms’ Aged Balsamic Vinaigrette (which is one of Target’s brands))
  • 1 Asian pear
  • 1/3 cup to 1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
  • 6-8 black olives , sliced (can buy canned, but I like getting the ones at the olive bar (if the bar looks well-kept))
  • black pepper

LET’S DO THIS!!

1. In a small bowl, lightly drizzle the vinaigrette over your lettuce. Toss until just coated and place on individual plates.

2. Slice your asian pear into very thin wedges. Test out a slice to make sure you have just enough taste but do not have a slice so large that it is clunky in the salad. Apply as many slices to a salad as you’d like.

3. Add cheese crumbles.

4. Slice your olives thinly and add as many as you’d like. *I love olives, but adding too many can overwhelm your pears, so caution.

5. Sprinkle black pepper, to taste.

6. If you’d like to, drizzle more dressing. Taste beforehand, though. To get the true taste of each bite, you do not want your dressing too heavy-handed.

Next week’s new: Ben and Jerry’s Schweddy Balls. It’s a limited supply right now, you know! Hang on, co-workers, you’ll be getting some of this malted milk ball delectable this coming week!

cites

1. “Duchess d’Angouleme and Sheldon Pears.” Stasophere. 17 Sep 2011. 22 Oct 2010. <http://chestofbooks.com/gardening-horticulture/Journal-7/Duchess-D-Angouleme-And-Sheldon-Pears.html>.

2. “Fruit & Vegetable of the Month.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 17 Sep 2011. 2011. <http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/asian_pear.html&gt;.

3. “Red Bartlett Pear.” Produce Oasis. 17 Oct 2011. 2011. <http://www.produceoasis.com/Items_folder/Fruits/RedBartlett.html&gt;.

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